Capture the MAGIC of Six Meters
Have you ever wondered about the “Magic” of Six Meters? After all, you’ve probably pressed the six meter button on your rig and failed to find any magic or even any other stations. If that’s the case, you’ve identified the “tragic” of the band. But without tragic there would be no magic.
AVERAGE EQUIPMENT + LIMITED ANTENNAS = EXCEPTIONAL QSOS
It really doesn’t take much on six meters — your existing HF+6 meter rig along with a simple antenna, even a dipole, will work. Read on and you’ll find out how I know that dipoles work along with how to build one of your own.
This book will also provide plenty of insight into how you, too, can “Capture the Magic of Six Meters.” It covers propagation, equipment, software, antennas, awards and contesting, as well as assistance in finding the magic.
All of this is leavened with stories from my personal experience.
A few years ago I was stuck at just under 300 grids worked on six meters and had very little hope of getting over that target.
My three-element Yagi had bit the dust as my push-up mast became a “pushover and toss-out” mast. I was left with a multi-band vertical that fortunately covered six meters.
Then WSJT-X’s FT8 mode took off. That with the vertical antenna got me to 400 grids — what an amazing change in the world of amateur radio.
Now, running 150 watts with a new push-up mast and three-element Yagi, along with a great summer sporadic E season in 2020, I’ve just reached 500+ grids and 50+ DXCC countries.
The message is that you can do this too and do it with simple antennas and low power. After all, it is the Magic Band.
Ham Radio What is the Magic Band
Six meters runs from 50 to 54 MHz within the USA. As such it sits midway between the HF bands, ending with 30 MHz, and the higher VHF bands, starting with 144 MHz. In that position, it provides virtually all forms of propagation familiar to HF and VHF operators along with a few that are much more prevalent on six meters. For modes of operation, there’s not only CW, SSB, and WSJT-X, but also FM simplex as well as FM repeaters.
The go-to propagation mode is Sporadic E (Es), which is reflection from the E layer of the ionosphere. This crops up mostly in the summer but there are also a few times during the rest of the year when Es can form. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. Therein lies the magic.
Normal distances on Es can range from a single hop’s 1,500 miles to double and triple hop. More detail on this in the propagation chapter.
As with HF there is also propagation via the F2 layer of the ionosphere. This is usually limited to the peak of the sunspot cycle. Now that’s some real magic with nearly world-wide propagation.
Next we get into the more esoteric modes of propagation, but many that are used every day. This includes meteor scatter where the meteors entering the Earth’s atmosphere light up the E layer and provide a path for six meter signals, as well as higher VHF signals. I’ll also mention ionoscatter, where signals are reflected from disturbances in the ionosphere.
Then there is Trans-Equatorial Propagation, TEP, where the signal essentially jumps the Earth’s magnetic equator. Stations in Argentina become armchair copy here in Texas when that happens.
There is also tropospheric enhancement when the weather provides a thermal inversion in the troposphere and basically bends the RF signal near
the earth’s surface. While this happens on six meters, it’s more likely on the higher VHF bands.
Then there is moon-bounce or EME for Earth-Moon-Earth. Here signals are literally bounced off the surface of the Moon. That typically takes some power and high gain antennas.
That is a quick overview, much more is provided later in the propagation chapter.
Ham Radio What is the Magic Band – A Guide to Working 6 Meters
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|About the Author||4|
|Table of Contents||5|
|What is the Magic Band?||7|
|Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP)||16|
|Six Meter Rigs||21|
|Six Meter Dipole||26|
|Six Meter Vertical||27|
|Six Meter Stressed Moxon||28|
|Six Meter Yagis — 3 Elements||29|
|Six Meter Omniangle||31|
|There Are Always More Options||32|
|FT8 Operating Hints||34|
|MSK144 Operating Hints||36|
|WSJT and Logging||37|
|CS-VHF States Above 50 MHz||45|
|UK 6 Metre Group||45|
|Good Hunting on Six||47|
|Appendix — Further Information||48|
|Further Reading on Propagation||49|
|Further Reading on Equipment||49|
|Further Reading on Antennas||49|
|Further Reading on Software||50|
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m an active VHF-UHF contester, six meter addict, freelance writer, and Scouting volunteer.
My contesting journey started with the discovery of lots of DX during the various HF contests. What a great way to pick up DXCC. Then I became interested in finding contest entry categories that fit my station, my operating preferences, and where I could finish at the top levels.
Along the way I attended Contest University and wandered into the VHF Contesting session conducted by Joel Harrison, W5ZN. That all seemed to fit my growing addiction to six meter DXing, my search for contest entry categories, and as importantly how to have more fun. Lately, I’ve been entering VHF contests in the Limited Rover category.
My freelance writing career began in 1976 with my first book and magazine articles published by Wayne Green, W2NSD, and his 73 Magazine. This led to my first publishing job with Heathkit writing home study courses, including the General Class Amateur Radio License Course. After a career in publishing I retired in 2013 and promptly rewired as a freelance writer at PathForeWord, my solopreneur business.
My career included 20+ years in publishing with the Boy Scouts of America as my day job. My night job included chairman of the National Radio Scouting Committee from 2011 to 2018, president of the K2BSA Amateur Radio Association from 2012 to 2019, member of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement’s Jamboree on the Air team from 2014 to 2019. I also led the amateur radio operations at the 2013 and 2017 National Scout Jamborees and the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.
You can keep up with “my ham radio adventures” at www.k5nd.radio
Jim Wilson, K5ND
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